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In 2000 I went with a group of art students, art professors, and art historians to China, in which we spent time in Shanghai, Beijing, and Yangshuo (of Guilin), and studied Chinese painting at Normal University in Changsha, Hunan Province. Yangshuo was the location where I took most of my photographs. The region is a magical terrain of unearthly fingerlike hills on all sides, along the Li River.

“Sanctuary” was taken in the remotely rural home of a woman who lived along the Li River in a bamboo forest, in a small complex shared with her son, daughter-in-law, and grandson. Her house was one room, and she graciously invited our entire group inside to make tea for all of us. She owned four teacups, which we shared among all seventeen. Her bedroom was simply a curtain drawn across the bed, which became the subject of my photo. She very generously invited me to photograph her room (although she requested not to be photographed herself).

“Second Glance” and “Neighbors” were shot in the tourist market street, while “Mannequin” was taken in the Chinese market where most tourists never ventured. Here we were sometimes eyed with some suspicion, especially with our obvious cameras hanging from our necks. Many older Chinese still feel nervous about having their picture taken, left over from the Mao Tse Tung rule. For this reason, I shot pictures blindly, not looking through the viewfinder, so as to remain as inconspicuous as possible. This method also lent itself to some interesting angles and happy accidents.

“Honorable Streets” was taking on a residential back street, a typical Yangshuo neighborhood, with a fingerlike hill looming in the mist. “Temple of the Senses” was shot at the Jade Buddha Temple in Shanghai. My trip to this temple was a profound experience. My senses were overcome with the incredible beauty: the twenty-foot-tall golden statues of the Buddhas smiling down on all sides; gorgeously colorful walls, ceiling, adornments, saffron-colored robes; etheric music played and chanted by the monks; incense burning; a sense of pure joy permeating everything.

© 2014 Jan Zoya. All rights reserved.